Stop the theatrics!

Ex-PM reacts to unions’ 48-hour ultimatum

Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur Wednesday called for cooler heads to prevail in the local trade union movement, while warning that Barbados’ “vast” economic problems will not be solved by “political theatre or gimmickry”.

Reacting to Tuesday’s failed attempt by the leaders of the island’s four major trade unions to get an immediate audience with Prime Minister Freundel Stuart while Parliament was in session, Arthur told Barbados TODAY he “fully respected” and supported Stuart’s stance in the matter, while describing the unions’ effort to get urgent tax relief as “misguided” and “totally out of order”.

At the same time, the former Barbados Labour Party (BLP) leader, now Independent Member of Parliament for St Peter, took a swipe at the current Opposition BLP Leader Mia Mottley for seemingly upholding the unions’ behaviour, while insisting that the Office of the Prime Minister must be respected, “especially by those who aspire to hold that office”.

Though making it clear that he was neither defending Stuart nor the current failed economic policies of his Democratic Labour Party Government, Arthur contended that the Office of the Prime Minister was currently being disrespected in a way that would not have been tolerated by him, and certainly not by his predecessors Errol Barrow or Tom Adams, whose tongues “would have been sharpened on both sides”.

“I suspect quite frankly that I would not have been as courteous as Stuart . . . and I have known all the other prime ministers and I know how forceful they were, and I cannot imagine any delegation turning up at Parliament on a Tuesday and seeking to have that kind of audience on that kind of subject with let’s say, an Errol Barrow or a Tom Adams and expect to be treated with even decorum,” he said.

“If they were to do that to those two forceful prime ministers, I believe that when you look out at Carlisle Bay the figures that you would see running on water towards St Vincent would be the persons who would have incurred the awful ire of those prime ministers by seeking to have them in that kind of posture.

“And the reality is that even if you don’t like the holder of the office, you have to respect the dignity of the office, especially those who aspire to hold the office,” Arthur stressed.

In further criticizing the move made Tuesday by the leaders of the National Union of Public Workers, the Barbados Workers’ Union, the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union and the Barbados Union of Teachers to hand-deliver a letter to Stuart outlining their case for immediate relief from the National Social Responsibility Levy, Arthur said while the Opposition Leader had a fully equipped office on the west wing of Parliament, the Prime Minister only had a small “cubbyhole” office within the precincts of the House of Assembly.

“[Therefore] anybody who in good faith and genuinely wants to have an engagement with the Prime Minister of Barbados, to discuss, in the presence of a substantial delegation, a matter as far reaching as the future economic policy of the Government should be advised that they should seek to have such a meeting in the Prime Minister’s Office [on Bay Street] where they could bring their flock and he has his advisors, but also on a day when a prime minister is free to have such meetings, rather than on a day that collides with other things that a prime minister has to do,” Arthur suggested, while insisting there was a right and a wrong way for things to be done.

“We have seen where a political party in Barbados, in my view quite wrongly, lead a delegation to the Prime Minister’s Office and sought to have the Prime Minister come and collect a petition on a Thursday when a prime minister is chairing Cabinet,” he said, before informing that “a prime minister is [usually] available to meet in his office on a Monday, on a Wednesday, on a Friday . . . but Thursday is Cabinet and Tuesday is Parliament.

“[So] for the unions just to turn up in Parliament where the Prime Minister just has a cubbyhole office, to expect that they can meet a prime minister there to discuss a matter as serious as this, I think is totally out of order and misguided and I support Stuart saying that ‘I can see one, but I can’t have a full delegation’ because it would be physically impractical for him to do so,” said Arthur, who served as prime minister for 14 years between 1994 and 2008.

Although they were unsuccessful in meeting with Stuart, the unions were accommodated by Mottley, who not only came out of the Chamber to receive them, but also took them into her office on the west wing.

However, Stuart’s letter, as well as two other pieces of correspondence which were intended for the independent members of Parliament had to be left at reception.

Up to Wednesday afternoon, Arthur, who was absent from Parliament Tuesday, was yet to receive his correspondence.

But he cautioned the unions that with the local economy on the brink of collapse, he would not allow himself to be used as “a stage prop in a political opera”.

“I don’t have an office in Parliament and I would have had, if I were to acquiesce, to meet with them under a tree in the hot sun to receive a letter,” he told Barbados TODAY.

“That is for me a waste of my time. If the unions want to sit down and discuss how we could get out of this and how we can build a consensus, I would be happy to meet with the unions, but quite frankly, I know what the unions are opposed to, [but] I don’t know what they are for, and perhaps it behooves all of us in Barbados to sit down and think carefully what we need to do to get out of this situation,” he said.

On the heels of Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler’s announcement of a $542 million austerity package on May 30, the former prime minister further warned that “incantations cannot create what reality denies” and “gimmickry will not solve our problems”.

In response to the union’s 48-hour ultimatum, Arthur suggested that the country as a whole still needed to come to terms with the enormity of Barbados’ economic situation.

In fact, he said there were a number of serious questions which the unions’ leadership needed to answer.

“What happens after 48 hours? Are you going to close down the country? If you force the minister to do what you want, what are going to be the repercussions, cause the minister will tell you, ‘ok, you want me to stop printing money, you want me however to maintain public sector employment, then what are my options?

“Let us discuss those. That is the reality of where were,’ Arthur told Barbados TODAY.

While making it clear he was not pleading a case for Sinckler, who has been under pressure from the unions to reduce the amount of taxation he has imposed on the country and to grant a “coping subsidy” for public servants, Arthur warned that Government had simply run out of options.

“They don’t want on the eve of elections to send home people and I believe that the union will say they don’t want people sent home either, so this is a conundrum that requires very serious engagement,” the former Prime Minister said.

“If the minister buckles and cuts the taxes, then he has to find an alternative way of paying the bills. What are those? I have said that in my view the only alternative way is [policy based loans from] the IMF, IDB, CDB. Are [the unions] prepared to come and go there with me?” Arthur enquired.

While stressing there was “no wrong time to do the right thing”, he further cautioned the unions that “at some stage any government – Bee or Dee – that will have to fix this problem will have to institute changes to the structure and functioning of the economy that may affect the standing of workers in both the public and the private sector and it would serve the unions better to just sit down and discuss if you have to institute tough policies . . . how you could mitigate the risks and turn such strategizations into things that can have a positive outcome.

“I would love to sit down and discuss if you had to deal with the state enterprises what you should do, but just to hand me a letter on the way into Parliament under a tree in the hot sun, that is not for me!

“And I think it is disrespecting the office really,” he said.

37 Responses to Stop the theatrics!

  1. Greg Greaves
    Greg Greaves July 12, 2017 at 11:22 pm

    I really don’t know why Owen doesn’t take back leadership of the BLP so I can vote for a real leader again

  2. Wayne July 12, 2017 at 11:27 pm

    Wise words

  3. Mhizz Kelly P Forde
    Mhizz Kelly P Forde July 12, 2017 at 11:29 pm

    Pack of mundanes

  4. Nicholas Mackie
    Nicholas Mackie July 12, 2017 at 11:38 pm

    Threatening to strike at a time when employers don’t need workers is pure folly !

  5. Ras Small
    Ras Small July 12, 2017 at 11:40 pm

    Said the director!

  6. The Negrocrat July 13, 2017 at 12:16 am

    Now he has a problem with trees and hot sun.
    I wonder what Sybil Leacock had a problem with

  7. Saga Boy July 13, 2017 at 12:20 am

    And in the mist of all this thenPrivate Sector lead by Herbert wants to assist the unions in closing down the country. Labour should beware of getting into bed with Capital. The private sector have been and continues to ripe off the working class. They keep them impoverished in order to survive. Let the private sector talk to the government about what they will be doing to help the people through this phase of our development.

  8. hcalndre July 13, 2017 at 6:44 am

    Mr. Arthur, when you said that Tom Adams or Errol Barrow would have the people running towards St. Vincent, you get respect when you give respect. The politicians of Barbados seems to think that they are gods and when people see you all they must fold up like a cheap umbrella. You`ll should be lucky that bajans still have that massa mentality from 300 years ago and that you`ll all are not the ones swimming to the places of their choice. The people protest at Trump Tower in Manhattan which is his personal property, I have not seen any body running and jumping in the East River or had their heads cracked.

  9. Rechelle July 13, 2017 at 7:08 am

    Please Mr. Arthur, this is a different Era in which we live.

  10. Rechelle July 13, 2017 at 7:08 am

    Please Mr. Arthur, this is a different Era in which we live.

  11. Rechelle July 13, 2017 at 7:08 am

    Please Mr. Arthur, this is a different Era in which we live.

  12. Rechelle July 13, 2017 at 7:08 am

    Please Mr. Arthur, this is a different Era in which we live.

  13. Mr Progressive July 13, 2017 at 7:27 am

    Mr Arthur you are correct in every word that you have spoken it seems to me the these are a bunch of hot head tugs calling themselves union leaders with no common sense or respect for country just trying to make a name for themselves but none of them can lead me I pity the sorry bunch and excuse for union leaders and Mia l feel your pain and your sense of confusion at this time let COMMON SENSE prevail and respect to Mr Owen Arthur

  14. Ralph W Talma July 13, 2017 at 7:35 am

    1. I think the former Prime Minister has again hit the nail on its head and Miss Mottley should take note.
    2. Wise words form a very wise man should be heeded.

  15. Ralph W Talma July 13, 2017 at 7:36 am

    1. I think the former Prime Minister has again hit the nail on its head and Miss Mottley should take note.
    2. Wise words from a very wise man should be heeded.

  16. Patrick July 13, 2017 at 7:39 am

    Gregg Greaves, you all who are fighting to bring down a government are the ones who will suffer if a crisis emerges.

    Go along with the union and shut down the country, the persons who are agitating are the ones who will suffer because most of them live from pay packet to pay packet.

  17. joan Worrell July 13, 2017 at 7:45 am

    Thanks Mr. Arthur. Where ignorance is bliss it is folly to be wise. You have exposed the unions for what little bit they are worth.
    I have asked several times what are the alternatives to cutting the taxes but at every turn my queries were blocked in the ”comments” section of Barbados Today because they seemed to have offended the Opposition Labour Party. ‘Nothing I said was libelous. However they never saw the light of day with the warnings ”your comments will not be published. Awaiting moderation. ” . You as a former Prime Minister have asked the same question and added a bit more in the following query but your statement is not awaiting moderation.

    “If the minister buckles and cuts the taxes, then he has to find an alternative way of paying the bills. What are those? I have said that in my view the only alternative way is [policy based loans from] the IMF, IDB, CDB. Are [the unions] prepared to come and go there with me?” Arthur enquired. Ends Quote.

  18. Bobolee Popo July 13, 2017 at 7:55 am

    Owen !! sorry…the right honorable Owen Semoore Arthur,sir,I was there in the zr bus-stand when you were embroiled in a boisterous argument,with hands flying left,right and center ..
    can I easily posit that the aforementioned is disrespect to the office of the prime-minister!??!!!
    Also I have also seen yours truly on many occasions walking through Bridgetown adorn in your colonial apparel ( three piece suit and collar and tie) in the hot broiling sun with unfettered ease.
    why is it a problem to stand under a tree for five minutes to receive a letter..
    Is this a case of swallowing camel but straining at an ant!?!!

  19. Zena July 13, 2017 at 9:11 am

    Mr Authur, I love you and your economic wisdom, but this bunch of ‘wild Boys’ from top to bottom have disrepected the people of this country for far too long. These are different days, since the days of Barrow and Tom, people have become educated. You cannot tax the living day lights from the people and expect them to sit back and don’t say anything.
    When was the last time the PM shown any level of respect to the people of this country, they are crying out for help, some kind of compassion, from their leader.

  20. Leroy July 13, 2017 at 9:33 am

    The office of PM must be respected.

    What happens when the trade union or populace does not feel respect from within the office?

    For too long this Gov has sit by and allow trust, honesty and respect to suffer with the growing discontent of the electorate.

  21. David Hall July 13, 2017 at 11:00 am

    While i agree totally with Mr Arthurs sentiments that cooler heads must prevail am also amzed at his seeming naivity regarding the willing ness of the Priiister to enter into dialogue with the trade Unons of all entitied concering issues relating to teh economy.

    Mr. Arthur well knows that during his time as Opposition leader and subsequently as Independent member that Barbados’ current Prime Minister, Mr. F Stuart, has stoutly refused even to entertain or even listen to virtually anyone with differing views concerning how to address economic issues. In fact, Mr. Arthur knows better than anyone how the recent efforts of the Minister of finance to address certain issues with the involvement of himself (Mr. Arthur) and other respected independent minds- were shot down brutally by the PM, who opted for his own counsel, which produced no meaningful results. . Mr. Arthur also knows that pride and arrogance keeps this government from admitting any wrong doing regarding their failed policies, or taking assistance from outsiders; therefore when I consider all that Mr. Arthur himself knows and/or ought to be aware of, though I find his call for cooler heads laudable I also sense a ‘hidden’ disingenuousness towards the growing popularity of the current leader of the Opposition. In my view if Mr. Arthur believes that our situation is as perilous as he insist, then I believe his strongest call should be for the current PM and his Cabinet to seek a new mandate from the populace and allow all for cooler hears to run the economy. Failing such a call from this our venerable statesman, encourages skepticism on my part of Mr. Arthur’s true intention.

  22. Helicopter(8P) July 13, 2017 at 11:15 am

    My dear countrymen the world is looking and listening but then too the ships and the planes may not come again! It’s your choise brothers and sisters, we may have to ask Guyana and St. Lucia to take us in if business is shut down. It only takes one day and that is 24 hours. Normalcy may never come again at all if a general strike ever occurs. St Lucia and other Caribbean states would absorb our tourist trade with a smile!

  23. Helicopter(8P) July 13, 2017 at 11:16 am

    My dear countrymen the world is looking and listening but then too the ships and the planes may not come again! It’s your choise brothers and sisters, we may have to ask Guyana and St. Lucia to take us in if business is shut down. It only takes one day and that is 24 hours. Normalcy may never come again at all if a general strike ever occurs. St Lucia and other Caribbean states would absorb our tourist trade with a smile!

  24. Sherlock Holmes. July 13, 2017 at 11:31 am

    Regardless of what one may say he is absolutely correct . The unions will do more harm to those who they favor when all is said and done.

  25. roger headley July 13, 2017 at 11:53 am

    It is exactly this type of arrogance that caused the electorate to reject you Owen. You keep talking about what Barrow and Tom would or would not have done but they operated in an environment where the masses were generally uneducated or ‘unpapered’. The problem with you and this present PM is that your predecessors educated us but yet you expect us to sit back and not speak, sit back and take whatever is handed to us. Owen, Massa day done.

  26. Avonda July 13, 2017 at 2:48 pm

    If everyone paid taxes, things would be different. Inviting businesses to come here on tax holidays is not helping the economy. While it can be argued that people are employed, it makes no sense to have to pay out almost half of what they earned in taxes. People still need to eat and the cost of living has increased drastically since the imposition of the additional taxes. There has been a serious mismanagement of the country’s resources for years by both parties. There needs to be greater resource management and accountability.

    There are some hotels that dont pay for water or that don’t have the new digital metres but nobody seems to be checking for them. Ministers get to live comfortably at the expense of the people… but the people are the ones being squeezed. I have no problem paying additional taxes to help the country out of the current crisis but the government needs to play a role also. Every month NIS is deducted from my salary and still i can’t get back any money when i am sick. What is the point paying it?

    When these taxes are collected, what is being done with them? It is not fair what is happening. Equipment goes missing and no one can say where it went but tax payers will have to pay for its replacement. Who is responsible for securing equipment? It can’t be a case where money is constantly being spent on projects that never start or finish.

  27. Ann Thomas July 13, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    I do believe a few weeks ago Mr. Arthur might have suggested something about a Government Senator, as far as I am concerned that now applies to him. This is an example of sour grapes par excellence. Disingenuous to the height Mr. Arthur.

    First, how could you conclude that by receiving the letter from the four union heads that the Leader of the Opposition is “seemingly upholding the unions’ behaviour. How can you, a former leader of the Barbados Labour Party forget the roots of the Barbados Workers Union? It would have been wrong for any leader of that Party to ignore the representatives of the masses of the people in this country. By receiving the letter and speaking to the union leaders, the Leader of the Opposition has shown courtesy, civility and sensitivity, qualities that are sadly lacking in Barbados now. She is showing that she is a leader for the times. Arrogant leadership is on its way out.

    Secondly, the suggestion that the action of the unions with respect to seeking tax relief was misguided and totally out of order is complete nonsense. Have you forgotten that the unions are part of the social partnership of this country and would be more than aware of all the issues and concerns on the table? The time has come that they now feel that they have to fully represent the interests of their members.

    Thirdly, I do not know which Tom Adams, Mr Arthur is referring to. The Tom Adams that is known, is one who never missed a good PR moment and delighted in using his wits to get the better of his opponents. He most certainly would have delighted in the opportunity to get a picture with the union leaders, receiving their letter.

    Fourthly, to suggest that the unions just turned up at Parliament is again nonsense. The world and his wife knew that the leaders of the four unions intended to deliver the letters at Parliament. It makes complete sense, all of the parties to whom the letters were addressed would be there. To ignore the symbolism involved is equally sad. The representatives of the masses coming to where the business of the masses is done is so obvious. The business of the masses is not done in Bay Street and there should be none more painfully aware of that than you.

    Mr. Arthur, I really thought better of you.

  28. Breadfruit. July 13, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    @ Ann and all the other who saw through the SCAM of an interview. THANK YOU!

    Ann you are the best.

  29. Breadfruit. July 13, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    @ Ann

    Arrogant leadership was voted out each time Owen lost the elections.

    Brilliant economist but very arrogant leadership is why Barbados turned against him.

  30. Petra July 13, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    Mr Arthur your time has gone up the thing unions this is a new Era respect is earned

  31. Carlisle Norville July 13, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    if we will be VERY Honest with ourselves, then we will step back & look @ this whole scenario from a true perspective( there a group of White business bagan men that you don’t see in your rum shops & meeting places these powerfull men runs things here in barbados those black & brown boys & girls in paelament DONT run one Dam thing in Barbados that is the first reality the 2nd is because of the handouts parliamentarians get from these white me they hands are tied the 3 & last point i will make is that all de hala balo that blacks kicking up in mean a dam thing when the laws in parlament are laws handed down from slave masters in Englang on how to govern blacks in barbados ( blind people your future will never change on till those laws in parlament CHANGE, all wanna gun get is jobs in de hotel buesness serving white people, & wana went to Harrison’s college & university & still working ya ass of for the white man. ( Willie lynch chip working man)when will you sleeping black people arise from your stupor, a crying fa all ya, when will you see the LIGHT & unite. a people that don’t know there true history, have no past or future, you dont know your worth & you are psychologically programmed to disrespect & judge each other, all de politicians are the same ,its a case of the one eye giant in a land of blind people, may GOD ALMIGHTY help de ignorant black people in barbados, that love masa so bad masa can do no wrong

  32. joan worrell July 13, 2017 at 8:29 pm

    Chris Sinckler’s solution to our economic problems :- NSRL

    Dr. Delisle Worrell’s solution:- Reduce the size of the public service

    Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur:- Loan from IMF/ IDB/CDB

    Barbados Labour Party :- Make Barbados Great again (sounds like Donald Trump)


  33. Breadfruit. July 13, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    @ Joan

    Trump win de election

  34. joan worrell July 13, 2017 at 9:08 pm


    The whole sees Trump as a clown. Wouldn’t discuss in this forum how Trump won the election, since that is under investigation in the USA and their tentacles spread far and wide. You may have the money to fly to the USA to testify before the House Committee. I am not that fortunate. I hope you don’t want your beloved party leader to follow in the footsteps of Donald Clown.

  35. joan worrell July 13, 2017 at 9:09 pm

    Above should read ”whole world sees Trump etc.”

  36. Haskell Murray July 13, 2017 at 9:28 pm

    Everything that Owen wrote makes a lot of sense except going to the IMF. The unions are not responsible for running Barbados and if public servants go on strike the government should give them an ultimatum to return to work and those who don’t should be fired and their union decertified.

  37. joan worrell July 13, 2017 at 9:44 pm

    @ Owen

    This article has gone viral . It is making the rounds like wild fire on Whatsapp . Now you know that you don’t have to keep political meetings to get your message across to Barbadians. I gave the same advice to Grenville Phillips and Lynette Eastmond. I hope they heed it. The social media is mighty and yet free.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *